Day 107 – Caswell Bay to Port Eynon

Day 107 – Caswell Bay to Port Eynon

What a difference from yesterday in the weather!  When we started out, it was grey and mizzling and continued overcast until well on into the afternoon. We drovIMG_4131e down into Gower, and left one car at Port Eynon, before coming back to Caswell Bay.  We dropped down on to Pwll du beach – being very critical of the rather ugly 1960s block of flats that over shadows it. Walking to the end of the beach, it was not clear where the path went – either over a heap of rocks at the end or else up onto the road in front of the block.

Whilst we were deliberating, we saw a couple of brave swimmers – it was still wet and quite chilly, and we were thinking that swimming was the last thing we fancied – suddenly, the man called out – Nick! Astonishingly, the couple had been my sister and brother-in-law’s neighbours in Surrey back in the early 2000s. Talk about a coincidence.  Just proves you cannot go anywhere without running into someone you know.

We chatted for a moment, and asked about any cafes in the vicinity – coffee was feeling like a good plan. Unfortunately, the nearest was an hour away at West Cliff.  We arrived at the excellent café in pouring rain, so spent a good 45 minutes having a delicious Welsh rarebit and coffee. It was still drizzling as we emerged but we were slightly comforted with the thought that the latest weather forecast was for sun in the afternoon.

Back on the path, we went round the headland, and found ourselves overlooking Three Cliffs Bay. The path then deviates into Pennard Burrows – as one might guess from the name, this is a series of sand-dunes – not brilliant for walking in, and easy to lose the path,  but, with the general lay of the land, not possible to get lost, even though you have to go slightly inland, towards a ruined church, as there is only one place to cross the little stream – a series of stepping stones. There were quite a few people about by this time, with dogs and children as the rain had stopped.

Over the stream, and up onto a low headland, than down through woodland with dunes under foot, onto Oxwich Bay.  We met a boy of around 12, who was holidaying with his IMG_4189family, who was eager to tell us about the giant blue jelly-fish he had found. It was the largest one he had ever seen – it was even the largest one his dad had ever seen!  And when we came onto Oxwich beach, we could agree that the jelly-fish are monsters!

We stopped for a drink at the hotel at the end of the bay, then went through the woods at the west end of Oxwich – there is a little church hidden in the woods, dedicated to St Illtyd. Legend has it that the first Christian church was built here in the sixth century – the current building is ancient enough – 13th & 14th century.  Unfortunately, it was locked.IMG_4206

There was a steep pull up to the top of the cliff, but the sun was beginning to shine quite brightly and the views were excellent as we did the last few miles along the beach edge before arriving at Port Eynon. There were lots of ponies wandering about – presumably they wander on the common land like Esmmoor ponies. IMG_4233

We found a pub, and had a welcome gin and tonic. The pub was crowded, and lots of people were eating. However, the presence of a (used) nappy in its sack on the table next to us argued in favour of a home-cooked meal.  A silver day, with 13 miles covered.

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Day 103 St Donat’s to Ogmore 15 April 2018

Day 103 St Donat’s to Ogmore 15 April 2018

Sunday having fairly limited public transport options, Jane and I had to be at Ogmore to catch the single bus that would take us back to St Donat’s. With my usual need to be everywhere early, we had a good half hour to wait at a place where no bus stop is actually signposted, but where a local farmer assured us it did stop – usually.

After about 15 minutes, a car stopped and we were given a lift a few miles into Ogmore-by-Sea where there was at least an official bus-stop and a lady standing by it looking expectant. Local knowledge proved correct, and the bus did turn up, carrying us through the tiny lanes to the point where I finished yesterday by 12pm. The forecast was not good, and it rained off and on, although not heavily, most of the day. TherIMG_3197e was the odd burst of sunshine over the sea, which sparkled silver. The path dropped down to the sea, and up again to the cliffs from time to time.

The mud was knee-deep, and it didn’t take long for me to slip – sitting down hard in a bramble patch. The rest of the day, I trailed mud everywhere.IMG_3202

After about an hour, we passed the lighthouse at Nash Point, and shortly after came to the Nash Point carpark café where I had an excellent bacon roll, and Jane had Victoria sandwich – highly recommended spot!

By and large, the walk was flat, with one or two steep drops down – the greasy ground made it hard going downhill, and my knee is now giving gyp. I hope it will be better tomorrow – if it is not, I shan’t walk.

For the first time more-or-less, since crossing the Severn, the Devon shore was occasionally visible – I could pick out the notch which is Porlock and I think at one point, I could spot Minehead. The coast is beautiful – very steep, vertical cliffs, with visible horizontal sediment structure in the land.  This ability to see the history of the coast’s development make it a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), known as the Monknash Coast. It is quite unstable, and in many places the land has clearly sheered away suddenly – fence posts hanging over the sea.IMG_3218

One of the prettiest parts of the path was the wooded valley on the approach to Dunraven Castle – sessile oaks, with an understory of bluebells – only a few were in bloom, but it will be a delight in a couple of weeks. There was sweet woodruff and ramsons, too, that Jane picked. IMG_3235We passed the foundations of Dunraven Castle, built in the 12th century on an old iron-age fort. It was raining quite hard at that point, which continued for about twenty minutes as we came to Aberogwr and turned up the river-valley. The views from the houses which overlook the estuary must be fabulous, when the sun shines.

As we walked up the river valley back to Ogmore, the sun came out, even though it was still raining, and we saw a lovely rainbow. An average supper (although the service was very pleasant) in a pub and then a drive back to Bristol in absolutely torrential rain. Jane pointed out that it would stop as soon as we crossed the bridge into England, and, aggravatingly, she was right.

Another silver day, with 9.5 miles covered.

Day 102 – Barry to St Donat’s 14 April 2018

Day 102 – Barry to St Donat’s 14 April 2018

Last night was rather disturbed – the fire alarm for the whole block went off at 2.17am. I grabbed my coat, my slippers, my phone and my keys, as well as the keys to the flat (Jane had stayed somewhere else last night) and spent a few minutes standing in the street, looking like an extra from a bad soap opera – furry slippers, waterproof and nightie: all I needed was curlers. This exciting incident meant I woke late, but it did not matter too much, as there was little traffic this morning, driving back to Barry.

The downside was the thick fog – visibility was not much more than 100 yards.  I drove over the spit to Barry Island, figuring I could ignore the half-mile from the bus-stop I finished near yesterday. Unfortunately, the layout of the roads has changed considerably from my map, with the construction of vast new housing developments. With that and the fog, (not forgetting the poor sign-posting) I got completely disoriented. Eventually, I sorted myself out, and came to the top of the island, a place called Nell’s Point. Of course, it is not really an island, just a promontory, joined with a thin spit of land.

It was still very foggy – but as I walked down the west side, it became possible to distinguish between the sea and the sky, although only because of the wave movement.  Barry beach is beautiful – so far as I could tell – long, wide, flat golden sands. It was somewhat disfigured by the noisy slot machine arcade blaring bad music place at the end – but, of course, everyone has different tastes. I was happy with the Cadawaldrs next door, where I was able to buy an excellent coffee. As I returned towards the spit, I saw that the tide was way out, so was able to walk across the harbour, rather than going back to the bridge – it was a bit of a scramble down, and the sand was heavy, but it made up the time I had lost.

I walked around The Knap, another promontory, then climbed up onto the cliffs. Behind me, I could hear two women chatting. Eventually, I entered a wood, and waited so that I could ask them to take a photo. We got chatting – they are walking the Welsh Coast Path, but, like me, not all at once. One has a son with realistic ambitions to play rugby for Wales (Yay!!) and the other has a daughter who is a contestant in the Miss Wales contest. We walked together for a good half hour, and it was lovely to make new friends.

Gradually, the cloud cleared and the sun came out, although it was not till the very end of the day that the Devon shore was vaguely visible.

The path runs along the coast, occasionally climbing up and down, with a couple of places where I had to clamber over cobbled beach.  passed the southern-most tip of Wales at Rhoose Point, and saw some interesting geological features.

The path passes a very large and ugly power station, where I was concerned that I was on the wrong side of the fence as the path was several inches deep in water at one point.

I hopped over the fence, but soon had to climb back as there were private property signs liberally scattered.

The path went inland for a bit, over fields, before dropping down to another cobble beach below Llanilltud Fawr. The evening sun was shining by now and the sea looked rather inviting.

I realised that if I moved swiftly, I would catch the 17.12 bus at St Donat’s – I hurried too much, and saw the 16.12 bus chugging away, and had to wait nearly an hour. St Donat’s is the location of the Atlantic College – it is a delightful little hamlet. Meeting new people has turned this day into Silver.

Day 94 Shurton to Bridgwater 28 Oct 2017

Day 94 Shurton to Bridgwater 28 Oct 2017

It was getting light as I left this morning. With no decent breakfast to be had at the place I was staying, I had arranged a slightly earlierIMG_2577 meeting with my friend Vicki and her dog, Bracken, at Combwich, to make up for it at lunch. To get back onto the coast, I had to go cross country. It was deeply uninspiring. Quite a long stretch was thought the fields of one of those farmers who clearly don’t want walkers on their land, but won’t actually break the law by closing paths: signs obscured with carefully untrimmed brambles; broken stiles and gates are tied shut with binder twine with tight knots. This resulted in a few tedious backtracks as I got stranded on the wrong side of the dykes that separate the fields.

IMG_2575The weather was very different from yesterday. A cold wind, and overcast. I reached the path around 8.45 and followed it along tracks and ridges to Steart point. The last 1.5 miles out to the point is very dull indeed. The high rushes on both sides made it impossible to sea the sea, and the path was made of large shingle – clearly not designed by any one who actually does long distance walking. 5 minutes in shingle n the beach is ok, but over a longer stretch it is painful and slow.

Hence, wherever there is an alternative, people have come off the main tack. At Steeart there was little to see except more reeds. I then turned inland. Strictly, although I was on the England Coast Path, I was walking beside the river Parrett.  The Steart Wildlife Conservation Trust has done a fine job of recreating salt marsh and mudflats. They breached the sea wall in 2014 and already the place is teeming (or teaming as they have on their signs!) with life. However, being the end of October, and chilly, there was little enough of it visible.IMG_2618

About half an hour north of Combwich, I met Vicki and the dog. He was having a whale of a time  even though he had to remain on the lead for much of the way. We walked back to the village for lunch, then carried on along the river path. It was pleasant, but uneventful. My companions turned back around half past two, the bright sunshine we had enjoyed for an hour after lunch having disappeared.IMG_2629

I carried on – two cow-filled fields were negotiated, but although they looked at me, and in one I took a stout post from the floor in case of incidents, nothing excited them, so they let me be. There was then a detour along the road for a mile or so, before turning back onto the river path which carries on into Bridgwater.

The town has a very interesting maritime history. It was a port from Roman times, and there were once big docks here. In the seventeenth century, it was the scene of several Civil War incidents, and a failed attempt to shoot Cromwell by Lady Wyndham, wife of the royalist colonel holding the town. She hit his aide instead.  Thirty or so years later, James, Duke of Monmouth, illegitimate son of Charles II, was proclaimed king in the town. The failure of his claim led to the battle of Sedgemoor and the Bloody Assizes.

The loss of the railway station under the Beeching cuts reduced the use of the docks, and further damage was done by the collapse of the canal wall in 2011. The town is now rather faded.

Got to hotel to find a young woman doing some very complicated organisation with the receptionist over several rooms. She mentioned doing a show later.  I pricked up my ears – a bit of stand up might be just the thing, but then she said it was burlesque. And thought maybe I might not like it. I replied that I did not think I was her target audience.  ‘Not at all’, she said, ‘our oldest audience member is 90!’ Hmmmm.

18 miles on the nose.  Today was a silver day – thanks to the company. Day rankings